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Matthew Garrison: Core Matter

By Published: January 24, 2011
AAJ: They're going to love you.

MG: [Laughs] I know! It was unintentional. It just so happened that there was a 7,000-square-foot location that is available, and we've been negotiating for the past five months. It's going to be incredible. We've got this 7,000-square-foot area to try everything I've ever wanted to do.

AAJ: Is this going to be a live venue-cum-recording studio?

MG: It's going to be all that. If you see what's happening with the music industry: the collapse of the recording industry and a drastic change in performance schedules and tours—and I see it with every musician I know, when I do go on tour in Europe, which has been my bread and butter for a decade—plus the audiences can be pretty jaded, though it depends where you are. Audiences seem bored, even though I'm playing with some great musicians and playing some really experimental stuff. So, instead of traveling thousands and thousands of miles, I'll make my own space. When we have downtime when, for example, an audience is not a viable option, then we'll make sure that we do some production. We're trying to keep ahead of this mess that's happening, and I feel that this venue is the way.

I keep pinching myself; we're going to get as many people as we can down here, and we're talking big names as well as guys that nobody knows. I know a lot of people I've met in music these last 20 years—even longer, as we were part of the loft scene in the '70s—and we're going to try and get a whole bunch of people down to this venue.

AAJ: The collapse of the record industry and the growing independence of artists both in recording and distribution seems to be a positive change, though you sound negative about the live scene. What's going on there from your perspective?

MG: I get to see what's happening because I'm in the middle of it. Obviously, there's less funding for artists, especially from the states coming over to Europe. I think Americans have taken advantage of the fact that there's a request for our presence, and then we charge higher and higher fees, and it's just not possible, so there's a collapse in that area. What is cool is that many European artists who used to complain that they weren't getting their fair share at their own festivals in their own countries are now getting the opportunity to play. That's the way it should be.

AAJ: So American artists ask too much, and the costs are prohibitive for European promoters these days?

MG: One of the first things you cut out of the equation are air fares and hotels. There's another part to this, which is that a lot of countries, like Germany for example, have a very high rate of taxation on performances, so there's a lot of legal documentation and work permits, and the promoters have to bend over backwards to get an act from overseas. It's understandable. It's all reasonable and it makes sense. Though by default, for someone like myself, this touring is now not a viable option for financing your life, let alone your career. So we're shifting from traveling everywhere to being in a central location where people can come to us, and I can see no better place at this point than New York.

AAJ: You described certain European audiences as jaded. Do you think they are simply spoiled by seeing so many gigs, and that it becomes more difficult for artists to really impress?

MG: I would say probably, yes.

AAJ: Maybe you should look into Asia. There are big audiences here hungry to hear great live music. The Jarasum International Jazz Festival in Korea, for example, has an audience that is 150,000 strong, and the people have the energy and enthusiasm of a rock festival audience. Asia could definitely be a viable option for artists seeking new touring options.

MG: We're doing that; we've started some forays into the Asian market, which has been fantastic. We're getting a really good reception and some very good fees for what we're presenting. We have Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Macau, Australia. I want to make this a regular thing. They're also asking me if I can contact this person or that person, so we're going to turn this into a small booking agency, so that we don't just help ourselves but we help the people who we think deserve proper exposure. The agents want the bigger names to fill their venues, but they're also willing to take the risk to see what's going on. In Europe they don't have time for that, which I just don't get.

I feel that the enthusiasm is here too, but there has to be an exchange between the business, the artist and the person that wants to go and enjoy the music. We're really trying to achieve that, where there's a true exchange. We're going to experiment in as many ways as we can with this venue, and we'll do whatever works. I agree with you about the excitement. Jazz, when it's done right, man, there's no rock 'n' roll concert that can top that shit!

One thing I've noticed over the years is that jazz has got this strange rap for there not being much money in it, but that's one of the biggest crocks of shit I've ever heard of in my life, because I've made a very good living off this thing as have a lot of other people. I was recently on tour with Whitney Houston and there are several occasions where I've made more money playing improvisational music. Maybe festivals like the one you mentioned in Korea will start seeing that and understanding that it's financially viable if you do it in the right way.

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